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Published: Wednesday, 4/19/2006

Senior s interest in yogurt may pay off big

BY JULIE NJAIM
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN Paige Lane s research project on the health benefits of yogurt could win her a $50,000 college scholarship. If not, she s still got a winning attitude.

Hey, if I don t get anything else out of it, at least it s a free vacation, said the 18-year-old Bowling Green High School senior.

She and her dad are heading to Washington tomorrow for an all-expense-paid weekend, during which she will compete against 59 other regional finalists in the Young Epidemiology Scholars Competition sponsored by the philanthropic Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Princeton, N.J.

Miss Lane will present her findings on the immune-boosting capability of yogurt in preschool through second-grade children before a panel of nationally recognized epidemiologists, teachers, and public health officials in hopes of taking home a scholarship ranging from $2,000 to $50,000.

Epidemiology is the branch of medicine that examines the causes, distribution, and control of disease among populations.

This is the third year for this scholarship, said Diane Tsukamaki, director of national recognition and scholarship programs for the College Board, which administers the competition.

[The foundation is] very interested in encouraging students to get interested in health and to look at a health problem analytically using the methods employed by epidemiologists, Ms. Tsukamaki said.

I m definitely interested in the health field, said Miss Lane, who plans to attend Bowling Green State University in the fall. I m leaning toward sports medicine [or] an exercise specialist.

She learned about the scholarship while searching the Web. After doing a little more research, she decided to focus on the health of younger children using her first-grade brother as inspiration, she said.

I wanted to center in and use younger children in my study because of their less-developed immune systems, Miss Lane said.

She sent out 276 surveys asking parents to track their child s weekly yogurt consumption and number of school absences over a six-week period. She was trying to determine if the consumption of lactobacillus the active culture in yogurt increased immunity.

I was actually very impressed with what I found out, she said. Across the board, the trend showed that the higher the yogurt consumption, the fewer sick days.

She submitted about a 15-page written research project for the competition in February and was surprised when the College Board, the organization overseeing the scholarship competition, phoned her home.

The first time they called I wasn t home, so they left a message. I was kind of nervous when I called them back, expecting a good job, but ..., she said.

Nearly 700 high school juniors and seniors from across the United States entered the competition. There are 60 people going onto the regional finals.

During the weekend, Miss Lane will give an oral presentation and answer questions posed by panels of judges.

Aside from competing, the participants will enjoy an ice cream social, a bus tour of Washington, and speeches presented by health professionals, Ms. Tsukamaki said.



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